In the real world, this usually amounts to how you dress, how you style your hair, how polished your shoes are, etc.In the wonderful world of online dating, however, you have myriad different levels of information you can display.

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If they took some time to form whole sentences and strike up a conversation with you, however, even if you’re not interested it’s polite to jot down a quick reply and either respond to them in a way that encourages more communication or in a way that cuts the convo off (nicely).

This, of course, gets more difficult for woman, who (if what I’ve heard is correct) can get hundreds of messages per day on some of the more popular dating sites.

Hopefully I don’t have to go any further with why this is the wrong approach because, damn, it’s REALLY the wrong approach. This is a rule that applies to interacting in person as well, but it’s especially important in the online dating scene because it can be hard to get people to reply to you (whether due to the massive amounts of mail they get everyday or simply because they don’t know how to respond to your list introduction [see Tip 6]).

The far better tactic is to take it slow, like you would meeting someone in real life (generally, at least..maybe the person above is used to doing the same thing in person? Introduce yourself in a way that is clear enough that the other person isn’t freaked out or caught off guard, but intriguing enough that they want to write you back, find out more, and strike up a conversation. Asking a few intelligent, well thought out questions, however, gives them a reason to respond, while at the same time showing something about yourself (‘if he knows enough to ask about that, he must be an MGMT fan, too! Asking good questions can help you steer the conversation while at the same time allowing you to be an active listener; that is, you are totally focused on what the other person is saying, and therefore finding out exactly what you want to know about them (which is one of the benefits of online dating…if you find out they are a Neo-Nazi or infrequent bather or something like that, you can ease your way out of the conversation by not asking any more questions).

Have a friend check it out, if you’re feeling extra brave.

Ask them if it represents you well, and if not, what they think you should be emphasizing more.

Put yourself in the shoes of someone who is visiting your profile.

Say you want to come across as sweet, but with a sexy side. If not, balance your photos a bit better (have some that show you being sweet, some that show you being sexy, with the balance being about what your personal sweet:sexy ratio is), insert a few more salacious comments among the cute ones, and check it out again.

I was doing research for a dating service branding project, but I took away two things I didn’t expect: first, that online dating sites (depending on which ones you join) are actual full of great people who are looking for an alternative to clubs and bars for meeting new people, and second that there are some oft-overlooked tricks to online dating that, according to many of the conversations I had, most people are not using. Make use of them, and you (and your date) should have a much more pleasant experience (and maybe you’ll find the girl or guy or transgendered person you’ve been looking for)! Do not, I repeat, DO NOT pretend to be something you are not while online dating.